New Year’s Eve is historically one of the absolute busiest times at Walt Disney World. Don’t be scared away by the chaos ... there is plenty of fun be had as you count down to the new year! What's more, with capacity limits in place for 2020 and 2021, it may be one of the least busy times to ring in the new year at Walt Disney World.
The parks have recently extended their operating hours for Dec. 31, 2020, though no official events have been confirmed. Below, you'll find our toadal New Year's Eve breakdown, including all we know about 2020, plus all of the special dining experiences, fireworks shows and dance parties that have taken place in the past if you're planning ahead for 2021 and beyond. Get your party hat (or ears) ready!
New Year's Eve at Disney World in 2020
The usual New Year's Eve events at Disney World are amazingly fun, but they also tend to draw crowds. With health and safety measures in place across the resort, we expect a more low-key celebration this year. Walt Disney World recently extended the parks' operating hours on Dec. 31:
- Magic Kingdom Park: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
- EPCOT: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Disney's Hollywood Studios: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Disney's Animal Kingdom: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Disney Springs: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
While it's not quite late enough to ring in the new year, we're grateful for some extra time in the parks! If you plan on hopping to Walt Disney World for New Year's Eve 2020, be sure to make your Park Pass reservation if you haven't already — Magic Kingdom and EPCOT are already full for everyone but Annual Passholders!
While there may be some surprise festivities in store, we definitely expect special New Year's Eve merchandise and food to be available at all of the parks. Holiday entertainment and hoppenings will still be going on at each of the parks, as well as Disney Springs. In fact, a Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays has been extended to Dec. 31! Likewise, the all-new holiday celebration at Magic Kingdom will still be available to enjoy, including some light pyrotechnics accompanying the festive Cinderella Castle projections that "wrap" the castle each evening. We also expect there to be some special New Year's Eve dinner menus at Disney Springs, which also offers lots of holiday merriment to enjoy, including the Christmas Tree Stroll.
Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests can currently stream the nighttime spectacular, "Happily Ever After," straight from their rooms. And now, for a limited time, hotel guests can tune to channel 74 each evening to catch a rerun of "Minnie's Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks" at 6:30, 8:30 and 10:30 p.m., as well as the EPCOT International Festival of Holidays' “Candlelight Processional” at 5 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Each Disney Resort hotel will also offer some special festivities on Dec. 31, so be sure to check the activities schedule you receive at check-in! Since it's likely that you'll be in your hotel room when the clock strikes midnight (don't turn into a pumpkin), you can always have a bottle of champagne or sparkling cider ready to pop to cap off your night — balcony toast? All resorts will have a champagne and truffle package available to guests in their on-site retail stores, while supplies last! While room service is currently closed, Disney Floral and Gifts also has some pre-packaged options available for the occasion, featuring hats, champagne and more. You can check out all of the offerings here. If you'd prefer to toast in advance in the parks, you can find a glass of bubbly (including champagne, sparkling wine or cider) at most locations around the theme parks and Disney Springs (including table-service restaurants at Magic Kingdom).
While you ring in the new year, you can also ring in the return of park hopping! That's right, beginning Jan. 1, 2021, guests can visit a second park after 2 p.m. with valid park hopper permissions. Looking to sleep in? The two theme parks that open the latest on Jan. 1 are EPCOT at 11 a.m. and Disney's Hollywood Studios at 10 a.m. Keep an eye out for New Year's Day dining specials at Disney Springs too — the shopping and dining district will be open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. We're guessing there will be some black-eyed peas to get your good luck in — and some big screens to get your football in too!
Here's a look at the festivities that generally hoppen all across Walt Disney World Resort to ring in the new year. We know we aren't the only froggies looking forward to 2021 — cheers!
Park-by-Park Rundown of Past Disney World New Year's Eve Events ... Plus Tips!
Below, we’ve broken down the huge assortment of special dining, parties and other festivities available in normal years to ring in the new year in style at Walt Disney World. The Disney Park Pass reservation system is slated to be in use until Jan. 14, 2021, so you will still need to plan ahead and save your spot if you'll be visiting in 2021!
New Year's Eve at EPCOT
EPCOT is by far the most exciting place to be on New Year’s Eve at Disney World. With lots of activities come lots of people. But as one of the largest parks, EPCOT is perhaps best suited for them. Plus we think the crowds are worth managing for these fun-filled festivities. There’s no need to choose ... you can take part in all of these activities for a complete night of celebration.
EPCOT New Year's Eve Parties
Walk from Mexico to Canada (and from the old year to the new) at Epcot’s New Year’s Eve parties. DJs will get you into the groove at the American Gardens and Future World Fountain stages. Dance the night away as you sip and savor some of your favorite flavors around World Showcase. These parties are a nice way to add some special fun to your holiday evening between your adventures on Test Track, Soarin’ and more. When it hits midnight in each country's respective pavilion, listen for a festive announcement and watch for a burst of colorful fireworks.
New Year's Countdown Fireworks
The Countdown Fireworks show at EPCOT is the most popular way guests celebrate New Year's Eve at Disney World. A countdown to the new year is projected onto Spaceship Earth as fireworks light up the sky. Generally, the park's nighttime spectacular (in 2019, this was EPCOT Forever; in 2021, we expect this will be Harmonius) will be shown twice, immediately followed by the special New Year's Eve display. In 2019, the showings were scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and 11:40 p.m.
Live Music at American Gardens Theatre
American Gardens Theatre hosts a variety of performances throughout the night for the ultimate NYE entertainment.
New Year's Eve at Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom is the most popular park and has historically been the most crowded during New Year’s Eve at Disney World. If Magic Kingdom is your park of choice, we recommend you arrive early and stay all day since it is likely to reach capacity for some part of the day. Save your viewing spot for parades and stage shows at least an hour in advance.
Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks
The new year is sure to start with a bang — literally — thanks to Magic Kingdom’s Fantasy in the Sky fireworks. Our whole frog squad loves how wild and colorful this fireworks extravaganza is. Seeing the sky above Cinderella Castle glow with this booming presentation is a truly magical way to celebrate the new year. As a huge fan of the fairytale magic and the sentiment of Magic Kingdom, this is my personal fave.
In 2019, Magic Kingdom showed Fantasy in the Sky fireworks Dec. 30, as well. On both nights, the show started at 11:50 p.m. — and earlier in the night at 6:30 p.m. This was great — if the tadpoles get too tired and can't wait up until midnight, you won't miss the fireworks display!
Frontierland and Tomorrowland New Year's Celebration Dance Parties
On both Dec. 30 and 31 in 2019, Frontierland and Tomorrowland hosted DJs for tadpole-friendly dance parties from 7 p.m. to midnight. A few of our friends from the Briar Patch and the Country Bear Jamboree made an appearance to do-si-do into the new year, or blast off in Tomorrowland. This was a memorable, family-fun way to celebrate an awesome year of fun.
New Year's Eve at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney's Hollywood Studios offers a countdown and fireworks spectacular, though it's generally more low-key than the other parks.
New Year's Eve at Disney's Animal Kingdom
At Disney's Animal Kingdom, you'll find special New Year's Eve-themed food and drinks, and DJs will keep the party hoppin' in Asia, Discovery Island and DinoLand U.S.A. As it gets closer to midnight, everyone can gather around the Tree of Life for a special countdown featuring energetic music and lighting effects. Plus Disney's Animal Kingdom offered special pin trading opportunities throughout the day in 2019 ... and a limited-edition pin to commemorate the occasion!
New Year's Eve at Disney Springs
New Year's Eve at Disney's Contemporary Resort
Disney Countdown to Midnight
Countdown to Midnight is a more formal affair taking place in the Fantasia Ballroom. The fun typically begins at 8 p.m. with a delightful culinary experience, boasting the best bites and wine pairings from Disney’s finest signature restaurants. In previous years, an assortment of alcoholic beverages was included in the $299 ticket price for guests 21 and over.
An interactive DJ will have you moving and grooving to music spanning from the 1960s to today. When you’re not busting a move on the dance floor or indulging in delicious goodies, you can pose in front of an assortment of festive backdrops. Mickey and Minnie make an appearance, as well! The night closes with an amazing view of Magic Kingdom’s Fantasy in the Sky fireworks spectacular.
Ink and Paint Club Experience
Offered exclusively as a VIP enhancement to the Disney Countdown to Midnight party, the Ink and Paint Club Experience takes place in a vintage Disney Animation-style room located in The Sorcerer's Apprentice Ballroom. The special reception began at 7 p.m. and welcomes guests until 11 p.m. in 2019.
Chef stations feature barbecue-spiced Florida shrimp and grits, pan-seared sablefish, New York strip steak and more ... all included with the $499 admission cost per guest (which was the grand total for both the Disney Countdown to Midnight and the Ink & Paint Club Experience addition in 2019).
A pianist will provide live entertainment and guests of honor Mickey and Minnie Mouse will be present for photos with a gorgeous backdrop. Included with the Ink and Paint Club Experience is reserved seating at the Countdown to Midnight event, so you can come and go as you please.
Pixar Party: A New Year’s Eve Celebration
To the new year … and beyond! At $199 in 2019 per guest (all ages welcome) in the resort's Convention Center (Second Level), this party was certainly a family-friendly festivity. For the kids and kids at heart, enjoy a delicious buffet-style dinner with restaurant-style reserved seating while an interactive DJ spins Radio Disney hits from a Cars-inspired DJ rig straight out of Radiator Springs.
Curious about the menu? There's something yummy for every palate, including Rex’s Slow-Roasted Beef Tenderloin, Wall-E’s Pan Seared Grouper, Sulley’s Beast White Cheddar Baked Mac & Cheese, Woody’s Favorite Herb-Roasted Turkey, a build-your-own salad bar, desserts and kid-friendly favorites such as chicken fingers and more.
There will be photo-ops galore as theatrical backdrops, dramatic set pieces and special props immerse you in the world of your favorite Disney Pixar films. You even get to interact with your favorite toys, monsters, superheroes and adventurers. Kids activities included Boot Camp with Sarge, Pixar face painting and a balloon artist who could twist balloons into your favorite Pixar characters in years' past.
The event typically starts at 8 p.m. and comes to a close as you head to Porte Cochere for a viewing of Magic Kingdom’s Fantasy in the Sky fireworks. With a limited number of guests, this is our pick for a fun, tadpole-friendly celebration that won’t overwhelm you.
Other Fun and Dining During New Year's Eve at Disney World
In addition to in-park celebrations, there are often special options available at Walt Disney World Resort hotels. Whether it's a NYE menu, a dance party, a champagne toast, or a combination of all three, there's something fun for every froggy. In the past, these have included:
- Toledo at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
- Mezzanotte at Topolino's: An Italian Masquerade at Disney's Riviera Resort
- Atlantic Dance Hall at Disney's BoardWalk
- New Year's Eve Dinner at the World Showplace Pavilion
- California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort
- Chef Mickey's at Disney's Contemporary Resort
- Flying Fish at Disney's Boardwalk Inn
- Garden Grove at Walt Disney World Swan Hotel
- II Mulino at Walt Disney World Swan Hotel
- Monsieur Paul within France Pavilion at Epcot
- Narcoossee's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Shula's Steak House at Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
- Todd English's bluezoo Lounge at Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
- Victoria & Albert's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Victoria & Albert's Chef's Table at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Tips for Making the Best of New Year's Eve at Disney World
- While the usual cancellation policy requires a 24-hour notice at Walt Disney World restaurants, many of these special occasion meals require cancellation more than 48 hours in advance. Be sure to read the fine print and be sure of your plans.
- If you’re set on a certain experience in particular, call 407-939-3463 as soon as you’re able to purchase your tickets or book your dining reservations. Advance dining reservations are required for all special holiday meals.
- If you’re attending the fireworks at either EPCOT or Magic Kingdom, be sure to bring ear plugs for little ones, or maybe even yourself. (Heck, sunglasses might not hurt either.) These shows are beautiful but can be intense.
- With both Magic Kingdom offerings being presented on the last two days of the year, we recommend knocking these celebrations out Dec. 30 for lesser crowds or to free up your official New Year’s Eve night for other activities. EPCOT, anyone?
- Note that at the parks, regular admission (and a Disney Park Pass, when in place) is required to access these special events — even if you have a dining reservation.
- Annual Passholder and Tables in Wonderland discounts will not be honored for special holiday meals.
- Disney Dining Plans are accepted at many of the dining locations (NOT parties), but two table-service meals are required per person at most locations.
- Avoid park hopping and arrive at your park of choice early, because there's a good chance that the parks, especially Magic Kingdom, will reach capacity. Last year, Magic Kingdom closed its gates to guests right before noon!
- Allot plenty of extra time for transportation, as parks are extra, extra busy on this day.
- Most of you know the drill of getting your spots for fireworks early on a typical night, but be sure to post up extra early for the New Year’s spectaculars. Not only will there be more people for the special shows, but there are extremely high-volume crowds to begin with.
- As attraction lines will be tremendously long during this peak season, we find waiting on a prime fireworks spot to be the most effective use of time. Of course, we always recommend having a family member grab snacks and drinks to enjoy during the wait!
There are so many hoppin’ activities to choose from to leap into the new year at Walt Disney World. When we’re at Disney World for a holiday, we really like to take advantage and celebrate in a special, unique way. What do you have planned? Tell us in the comments.